Friday, September 10, 2010

Zombies in History

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by Jillian Interlichia for My Dog Ate My Blog
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Zombies in History

Zombies lurched into American pop culture fairly recently, upon the 1929 publication of William Seabrook’s The Magic Island. Supposedly a travelogue, this story of the author’s forays into Haiti introduced voodoo, the word “zombi," and the flesh-eating undead to America. This unholy terror grabbed the minds of Americans and has not yet let go. Many of the novels written about zombies involve apocalyptic futures where few survivors are hunted by their no-longer-human counterparts. But one sprightly novel takes a look at what the past would have been like, with zombies.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is sometimes considered a gimmick, a weak attempt to get modern readers into Jane Austen. And from a purely literary point of view, “mash-up” is the best way to describe this odd combination. “Co-Author” Seth Grahame-Greene retained about 80% of the original novel, keeping Austen’s story of hatred that turns to love, and simply tossed in zombies, ninjas, and fight scene after fight scene.

Let’s not fool ourselves, Jane Austen purists and zombie enthusiasts will hate this. Grahame-Smith adds certain conversation and plot elements to the story might have made Jane Austen roll over in her grave like one of the titular zombies. And those who love the pure horror evoked by brain-eating living dead will be distracted and bored by the period drama that remains of Pride and Prejudice, despite the promise of “ultraviolent zombie mayhem.”

Everyone in between, though, will forget all about dancing and tea parties and Edwardian English mores. Witty Elizabeth Bennett, heroine of romantics everywhere, is now a ninja zombie fighter, trained by the best kung fu masters. She must duel the undead with her martial arts skills and Mr. Darcy with her banter, and both story lines have you at the edge of your seat. The zombies are appropriately terrifying, possibly because they feel so out of place in the middle of the quaint English countryside.

The tension between the classes that Jane Austen subtly highlighted in the original is replaced with tension between schools of fighting. Snobby Lady Catherine de Bourgh looks down on the humble Bennett sisters because they were trained by Chinese masters, whereas anyone who is anyone should have been trained by a Japanese master. The Bennett sisters debate whether it’s better to carry a musket and appear unladylike, or be protected in case of zombie attack. Little details like this show what loving, outrageous detail Grahame-Smith added to the well-loved classic.

What made the original Pride and Prejudice so popular is the verbal sparring between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. The sexual tension and will-they-or-won’t-they dynamic remains popular to this day. In Pride and Prejudice and Zombies the sexual tension remains, but is augmented by some very well-done fight scenes. Instead of English country dances, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy fight zombies with guns, knives, and their fists. These action scenes spice up the novel and make the pages turn quickly. The deadly skills of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy make their eventual compatibility much more exciting.

If Austen’s biting social commentary needs zombies to bring it to modern readers, maybe zombies need a facelift, too. You can read as many futuristic, zombie apocalypse books as you like, but the blood and gore will all blend together in the end. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is unlike any other zombie book you’ll read, a story with heart, soul, and brains – and extremely tasty ones, at that.

Jillian Interlichia is a guest blogger for My Dog Ate My Blog.

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by Jillian Interlichia for My Dog Ate My Blog
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Ever consider writing a zombie mashup?

Well, I'd like to jump start your writing with this....

*** Zombie Journal Giveaway ***

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Journal

Open to all.

Offer ends: September 30, 2010

TO DO (2-parts):

1. Sign guestbook (if you haven't already).

2. If you were to write a book or screenplay for film,

What would you mashup with zombies?


Contest has ended - winner is here


=== September Zombies schedule of events
with links to posts and giveaways from the other Zombiettes===

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